Jul 11, 2011

Optimizing For Enjoyment, or Crowd-Sourcing Cool

Part of the reason I’ve resisted social networks for so long is the huge time sink they inevitably become. And in-between my day job, playing video games, and the various necessities of life (sleeping, showering, shitting, etc.), I have to squeeze reading news, hobby code projects, watching videos, and writing these posts. And that list doesn’t include the highly variable friend/girlfriend time, either. If I tried to add “check Facebook" into that I’d be screwed. Something would have to give, and I like all of the things currently on the list.

Because that’s the crux of time constraints like life: you have to optimize for enjoyment as best you can. There are only so many minutes in the day. How will you best spend them, more or less?

I’m not expecting to have the absolute MOST FUN EVAR every day. While that would be super and all, it’s unrealistic. And demanding perfection in anything is a surefire path to dissatisfaction. (I’m also not saying aiming for perfection as an ideal but unreachable goal isn’t a good idea sometimes, though.)

Very early on I decided not to use this blog to mention trivialities or highly mundane personal stuff. It’s not that those things are not important to me but most of the time they’re important only to me or those involved and are largely uninteresting/pointless to everybody else. This was (and still is, kinda) difficult to convey to my girlfriend, who found being largely unmentioned hurtful. I didn’t want this to turn into pointless navel-gazing about my day-to-day life. Only my mom would care to read that — and maybe not even her!

Whether interesting to others or not is obviously debatable, but at the very least I try to make posts of “general interest”, usually on philosophical discussion grounds. Instead of being just another reposter, I wanted to contribute to the vast online discussion and be a creator of some form, however miniscule or unheard. Sure, these are highly opinionated and all, but they often serve as a way to introduce, touch on, or explore topics that interest me and (hopefully) others. They are modern mini-essays.

The social networks always struck me as far too self-indulging. I realize how ironic that seems right now, but hear me out. While this blog is personal, opinionated, and self-serving in a way, it’s a vehicle for discussion or interest, ultimately. Most social profiles, however, actively emphasize minutia. What’s the first thing you tend to see? Your profile picture. The second most obvious? The status update box and the phrase “What’s on your mind?” As if anybody cares!

But that’s just it: we looove to think other people do care! The me-on-a-pedestal effect is extremely sexy and hard to resist for most of us. It’s the same human nature that elevates people to the coveted celebrity status and keeps tons of people endlessly gabbing about/over them.

Knowing is half the battle, and so I resisted the temptation of ever joining in the first place lest my awareness of the problem and my personal perseverance fail me. After all, a good strategy for never giving in to things is never to put yourself in a position where it’s possible. (This is the old funny-and-true “men are basically as faithful as their options” Chris Rock bit.)

But I’ve allowed pieces of my armor to chink over the years. Facebook loves to make their playground a walled garden, not letting me in, but I can sneak in under my girlfriend’s account if ever really need to see something. Twitter seduces me with it’s short-and-sweet nature and so I tweet occasionally. And Google comes out with their Facebook clone and I have to admit I’m terribly interested… too interested.

Because the thing is, I just want to optimize for fun. Twitter’s limit on what you can say helps by forcing most people to only post sound bites or links. Ultimately, you follow only those who you know (or suspect initially, I suppose) will tweet things you’ll mostly be interested in.

The freedom on the internet to create, share, and find is breathtaking, but it also means that almost all of it is shit. The difficult part is always wading through the morass to find the few golden nuggets. And if your goal is to optimize your enjoyment, then cutting down the time it takes to find good stuff is one of the best things you can do.

But the more you try to cut corners the more you exponentially increase the odds that you’ll never find some those good interesting bits. Part of the reason I like Twitter so much more and more these days is that the sound bites and links and chatter often introduce me to tons of little fun things I’d probably never run across myself otherwise.

If I want to cut down on the time it takes me to sift through junk BUT I don’t want to eliminate my chances of finding good things too much, why not crowd source it? If everyone shared the one or two interesting things they managed to stumble across each week and you had a handful or two of those people to follow (and them or others follow you) then we’d all benefit. We share the problem of shit-sifting and thus all benefit!

Of course, then you’ll just end up sifting through the shit other people consider cool anyway.

Oh well. I forget that shit is inescapable (since, as we all know, everyone poops).

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